Kakao Talk child sex abuse scandal shakes IT industry

THE co-founder of South Korea’s popular chat app Kakao has resigned over allegations he did not do enough to prevent child abuse imagery spreading on the service.

The departure of Lee Seok-Woo from Kakao Corp comes a week after he became the first internet industry insider in South Korea charged for violating the Act on the Protection of Children and Juveniles from Sexual Abuse.

Kakao Corp said in a statement that Lee “would like to take on new challenges”.

However Lee’s resignation has shocked the IT industry, as the view he should have done more could have huge ramifications in other companies if this logic is applied across the board as pornographic texts, photos, videos and links can be sent on virtually any online medium.

The South Korean law dictates that mobile service operators must prevent circulation of these photos on their platforms, although there is no specific directives about how they can achieve this and legal experts have said investigating online content can clash with privacy.

This is pretty messed up. Perhaps I should be scared to be posting comments online now? (Juil Yoon, Photographer at Juil Yoon Photography on The Hankyoreh analysis)

Yonhap News:

“Questioning the legality of the indictment, critics argue there are no clear legal guidelines on the responsibility of online platform operators to prevent the distribution of pornography. However, prosecutors defend their move, claiming the former CEO was remiss in his duty of blocking smut.”

K.S. Park, a professor of Korea University Law School also told Yonhap News, “The free exchange of content is the key idea of the Internet. There are no laws around the globe to make service operators responsible for failing to remove problematic content through pre-censorship or monitoring.”

That’s the thing when you become a platform. You let go and it is sometimes hard to take back control from users. Nonetheless porn should be moderated on any platform. (Willis Wee on TechInAsia)

Kakao Talk said in a press statement: “We are making a genuine effort, by scanning for keywords, looking for malicious links, and allowing users to report objectionable material. But requiring us to filter out even more obscene material on a private service necessarily implies a degree of censorship that would infringe on the privacy of users.”

Other than the privacy issue the decision has also been challenged by critics who question whether a representative of a corporation can be held responsible. However prosecutors said they based the ruling on the seven-year jail sentence handed down to the ship operator of the Sewol ferry that sank off South Korea last year.

Yonhap News:

“The CEO of the ship operator was held responsible for the sinking of the Sewol. Likewise, it has been judged that the representative of an online service operator could be punished for circulating pornography.”

Kakao Talk has more than 100 million users. The app allows users to have one-on-one or group conversations and send multimedia content.

I admire Korea’s government for their initiative in filing charges on Kakao. Pornography and prostitution within these types of messengers are widely-known secrets, and they have made history by doing such thing. (Kathy alano on TechInAsia)